Vaccines are playing a major role in reducing the impact of infectious diseases. Nevertheless, vaccines have still to target important health problems. The development of individual viral proteins as vaccine candidates has met a limited success although these viral proteins were the targets of neutralizing antibodies mediating protection.
Alternative approaches are needed, and virus-like particles (VLPs) could contribute to progress in this regard.
The new viral vaccines such as HBV and HPV are composed of virus-like particles (VLP) harboring the surface proteins assembled in a particle mimicking the coat of the natural viral agent. As of today, the antigenic structure of all successful viral vaccines either contains or is similar to the external structure of the targeted virus. The efforts should thus now focus on the spatial assembly of these surface proteins in order to optimally induce a protective immune response.
This opens new questions and areas on antigen design, regarding for instance the optimal and minimal size and structure which are needed for VLPs. In addition, what are the mechanisms of action specific to the VLPs, are there differences in the uptake pathway(s) followed by soluble proteins and VLP, and is the innate immune response different between VLPs and soluble proteins? Last but not least, are adjuvants needed, and which of them are compatible with VLPs? These questions will be addressed during the conference.